Europe in my town
Center for Civic Education (CGO), in cooperation with the Center for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) from Podgorica and Civic initiatives from Belgrade, started the project “Europe in my town” that is supported by the European Union through the EU Delegation in Montenegro in January 2011. The project is co-financed by the Parliament of Montenegro and the Commission for allocation of revenue from gambling Government of Montenegro. The aim of the project was to strengthen the capacity and role of local communities and civil society organizations in Montenegro, in order to establish long-term and effective contribution to the process of integration into the European Union. More specifically, the project aims to increase the level of understanding and support for the EU accession process of the citizens of Montenegro, through the creation of conditions for their effective participation in public debate and a platform for cooperation between local governments, local civil society organizations and citizens of nine Montenegrin municipalities: Podgorica, Niksic, Cetinje, Ulcinj, Budva, Herceg Novi, Bijelo Polje, Pljevlja, Kolasin. The target group of the project were the citizens of the nine municipalities in Montenegro whose understanding and active support to the process of integration into the EU is crucial for the overall success of this process. Direct beneficiaries are civil society organizations and the media, as well as the administration of nine Montenegrin municipalities whose capacities will be strengthened to advocate for European integration in their communities, and cooperation and dialogue with citizens will be improved. The “Europe in my city” has sought to act on two levels of current challenges. On the one hand, the aim was inform the citizens of nine Montenegrin municipalities by providing locally relevant, customized and targeted information. On the other hand, the involvement of local authorities and local civil society organizations in this process aims at establishing a permanent cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experience between local authorities, representatives of civil society organizations and citizens, which would raise the issue related to European integration and of importance for the participants at the local level, formulate interests and priorities in relation to this process and implement joint activities in the future. This will be a significant step towards a higher degree of active participation of citizens in the integration process, especially if one takes into account that the essential success of the implementation of this process requires full awareness and support of the citizens of Montenegro. The experience of countries that are earlier in the process (Bulgaria, Croatia) have shown that the support of the citizens of the accession process to the European Union in the first phase at a high level or not, as the country progresses in reforms and enters the next phase of this support the largest number of cases is falling. This is mainly explained by the complexity of the process, whose benefits and importance at the time of implementing reforms and fulfilling the necessary conditions, are not always sufficiently visible to citizens. Montenegro faces the challenge of maintaining the existing EU support, as well as its strengthening in the coming years which will be quite demanding, in order to ensure the full legitimacy of the accession process and reforms leading to the democratization of society.
The reforms that are being implemented from the central to the local level, produce real effects on the lives of citizens at the local level, can lead to a drop in confidence and dissatisfaction of the citizens hence the process if the reform experience as an imposition by the European Union and not as an attempt to develop society through compliance with the standards of the European Union. To avoid this scenario, it is necessary to continuously and comprehensively raise awareness on the benefits (market access, technical assistance experts, the availability of funds and financial support, etc.), but also the responsibilities and obligations arising from membership in the Union. Bearing in mind the phase in which Montenegro is currently located, it is very important that the actors at the local level are informed that this key sector of European Union policies affecting local level, as well as formulate policies and instruments that are applicable thereto. The process of creating local development policies in local government, in accordance with the principles of creation and application of key EU sectoral policies, means creating conditions for dynamic development, democratic consolidation, rapid economic and social transition – thus faster integration into the EU. This way of thinking and acting makes the local community and all stakeholders in it more willing to take advantage of that carries the process of European integration, but also more competent to cope with the growing needs of citizens, increasing their own jurisdiction (thus the responsibility) to flow integration is still progressed. Given that the local authorities are the closest level of communication to the citizens, their role is crucial, although not sufficiently present, the value was the presentation of the EU acquits, as well as familiarizing citizens with the process of European integration.